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The first Japanese embassy to the United States of America, sent to Washington in 1860 as the first of the series of embassies specially sent abroad by the Tokugawa shogunate online

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Online LibraryAmerica-Japan SocietyThe first Japanese embassy to the United States of America, sent to Washington in 1860 as the first of the series of embassies specially sent abroad by the Tokugawa shogunate → online text (page 1 of 22)
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* *'*



Muragaki Awajinokami Shimmi Buzennokami Oguri Bungonokami

(From photograph taken at Willard's Hotel, Washington, D. C. , U, S. A.,
June 4, 1860.)


During that eventful epoch in the history of modern Japan
when the people not yet awake from the dream of seclusion were
clamoring for the exclusion of foreigners, the Tokugawa govern-
ment despatched ambassadors to Washington to exchange
ratifications in conformity with the stipulation of the Kanagawa
treaty. The mission consisted of Masaoki Shimmi, Lord of
Buzen, the first Envoy, Norimasa Muragaki, Lord of Awaji, the
second Envoy, Tadanao Oguri, Lord of Bungo, "Ometsuke"
(Special Censor), and their suite.

It was the first embassy despatched by this Empire to the
World Powers under mutual agreement, and this book is the
diary kept by Norimasa Muragaki, the second Envoy. From it
we learn that the entire party was composed of seventy-seven
persons; that they left Yokohama on the 22nd of the First month
of the Seventh year of Ansei (Feb. I3th, 1860), on board the
U. S. frigate "Powhatan," despatched for the purpose by the
United States Government; that after having touched at Hawaii
and then at San Francisco, where they were received with an
overwhelming welcome, they were taken to Panama; that there
they left the "Powhatan" and were taken by train to Aspinwall.
There they were taken on board another ship, the " Roanoke,"
and carried safely to Washington. The diary tells how, after
their audience with President Buchanan and the exchange of
the ratifications of the treaty, they were warmly welcomed in


various cities, and lastly at the city of New York were given a

most brilliant reception. Here the United States Government
equipped her newly built man-of-war " Niagara," the biggest ship
she had at that time, for the accommodation of the party, and in
it they were safely conveyed, across the Atlantic, and via the
Cape of Good Hope and the Indian Ocean, to Shinagawa. They
returned home on the 28th of the Ninth month of the First year
of Man-en (November 8th, 1860), having spent about ten months,
it being a leap year, in this round-the' world tour.

Throughout the entire journey from start to finish the United
States Government treated the whole party of seventy-seven
persons as guests of the Nation, ail the expenses of travel,
hotels, carriages, etc., being defrayed by her national treasury.
How great the total amount of expense was we have no means
of knowing; but the fact that the Municipal Council of the city
of Philadelphia appropriated the sum of ten thousand dollars for
the welcome of the party, and the city of New York twice as
much, is enough to enable us to conjecture the amount of the
sums expended.

The diary also shows that the United States of America in
thus enthusiastically welcoming the Japanese envoys was
actuated by no ambitious motive, but rather by a sincere desire
to bring this long closed empire into the light of modem
civilization, that she might join the sisterhood of nations.

But when the envoys returned home from their mission,
they found that Naosuke li, the late premier of the Shogunate ,
by whom they had been chosen to undertake this responsible
mission, had been assassinated, and that the dignity of the
Shogunate had fallen to the ground, the Shogunate having won
the censure of the Imperial court for having ratified the treaty

contrary to the Imperial Will. Under such circumstances, the
envoys could only report the result of their mission secretly to
the authorities of the Shogunate, leaving the country at large in
utter ignorance of the most cordial and hearty welcome that had
been extended towards their countrymen by the United States
Government and her citizens.

We, members of this Society, who learn for the first time
these facts from this diary, not only feel grateful for the sincere
friendship and good will shown us by the United States Govern-
ment and her citizens sixty years ago, but are inspired with
renewed zeal to make every possible effort to bring about still
closer relations between our two countries.

Viscount K. Kaneko

President of the America- Japan Society


The Japanese text oif the Muragaki Diary was published by
The America- Japan Society and distributed among its members
in May, 1918, not long after the Honorable Roland S. Morris,
the American Ambassador, had visited the grave of Ambassador
Shimmi, late Lord of Buzen.

At that time it was hoped that the publication of this
English edition of the Diary would soon follow : but it was found
that the Tokyo printing houses capable of doing work in English
were so busy that much delay was unavoidable. During this
lengthened period of publication other materials of value have
been secured and are here presented with the Diary.

This additional material consists of articles -which appeared
in American papers and periodicals of 1860, giving contem-
porary comment, and also of chapters and shorter excerpts from
later historical and political works containing references to the
visit of the Japanese embassy. Of the former, Nos. 234, 235,
237, and 240 of " Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper," and
Nos. 177, 178, and 183 of " Harper's Weekly," have been
kindly put at our disposal by the Society for Historical Research
and Compilation of Documents relating to the Revolutionary
Epoch of Modern Japan. A copy of " The New- York Illustrated
News," Vol. II, No. 29, we owe to the generosity of the
venerable scholar, Dr. Fumihiko Otsuki. Also to make up a
gap it was necessary to borrow a chapter from Dr. Steiner's
" The Japanese Invasion," while Mr. Du Rois's lecture read

before the American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, 1910,
explains in detail another important mission of the Embassy.

Three chapters of " China and Japan," written by Lieut.
J. D. Johnston, U. S. N., Executive Officer of the Powluitan,
were supplied by Mr. S. Miyoshi, who translated the Diary.

A mifior point in dispute may here be mentioned. The
number making up the whole party of the Embassy differs with
different authors, but an investigation into various sources both in
Japanese and in English has established the fact that the
Embassay was at first composed of seventy-seven persons, but
that the number visiting Washington was seventy-six, one of the
servants having been left at San Francisco in consequence of

C. Shibama


Part - Page

I Diary of the First Japanese Embassy to the United
States, Written by Muragaki Awaji-no-Kami, Vice-
Ambassador, Translation by Mr. Shigehiko Miyoshi. 1
II The Japanese Embassy, as seen by Lieut. James I.
Johnston, U. S. N., Executive Officer ot the
Powhatan ...~. 77

III News Items, gleaned from American papers issued 6b

years ago and collected in Japan 158

IV Excerpts from later publications.

I The Great Japanese Embassy, by Mr. Patterson

Du Bois 275

II Our first acquaintance with the Japanese,

by Dr. F. J. Steiner 305


Written by


Translation by Mr. Shigehlko Miyoshl.

February Otli, I860.

At last the day of our departure has arrived. The brigh t
morning sun, with a bracing winter breeze, heralded the first day
of our voyage to America. Towards noon, the party of eighty-
one assembled on the pier at Shiba and from there were rowed in
a number of boats, against a heavy wind, to the American war-
ship " Powhatan " which was anchored off the fort.

As we stepped on the ship's ladder, the band struck up a
lively air and on our reaching the gangway we were courteously
received by Commodore Tattnall and Captain Pearson, while a
salute of seventeen guns was fired. We found the deck encumber-
ed with all our luggage, and with piled-up cases of stores, and
the utmost confusion reigned until the various packages were
collected and sorted. Soon after we had descended to the lower
deck and had taken possession of our quarters, the order to cast
off was given and the ship immediately got under way, her
paddles revolving furiously. Towards evening, after an hour's
swift sailing along the coast, we arrived at Yokohama and were
told that the ship would remain in port for a few days before she
started on her trans-Pacific voyage. We were greatly pleased to
find that we should have ample time to arrange our belongings
in our temporaiy home, before putting out to sea.

U.S.S. " Powhatan " is a steam frigate of 241 5 tons. She
was launched in 1855 at Gosfort, Virginia, U.S.A. She ranks
as a first class frigate and is a magnificient ship one of the best
in the American Navy. Her dimensions are : length 250 feet,
beam 45 feet, hold 26 feet, and she carries eleven guns on deck.
Three of us have cabins on the lower deck ; for the other members
of the party several large temporary cabins have been built on
the gun deck, necessitating the removal of several guns. The
officers and men of the " Powhatan " are as follows : Commodore
Tattnall, Captain Pearson, Captain Taylor of the Marines, six
lieutenants, one Chief Engineer, seven assistant engineers, three
doctors, a purser, a Chaplain, a gunner, a carpenter and a crew
of four hundred men.

February lot h.

A strong westerly wind is blowing, but being a large craft
our ship is as steady as a rock and extremely comfortable. This
afternoon several of our friends came on board to bid us farewell.
After a very pleasant talk and the exchange of good wishes, they
took leave of us.

February lltli.

The day is clear, with very little wind. All our belongings
have now been unpacked and arranged so as not to interfere with
the cabins being kept in order. This afternoon we were invited
by the Captain to inspect the ship and we were shown all over
her. At the foot of the mizzen-mast, four sailors are on guard, and
close to the mast is the Commodore's bridge, where one officer
is constantly on the watch : upon him rests the responsibility
for the navigation of the ship. Near the mast a special kitchen

for our party has recently been built The officers' mess room is
spacious and has a large table in the centre. It is surrounded
by the officers' cabins. What struck me most was the ship's
engine. It is a most ingenious machine and is quite beyond
description. The crew sleep in hammocks. We also visited the
ship's hospital and prison. Ammunition is stored on the third
deck, and water is kept in tanks below. At five o'clock every
morning a gun is fired as a signal to get up, and this is followed
by the drums and fifes. The crew then begin work, cleaning
iron, polishing brass and scrubbing the decks. At eight o'clock
the national flag is hoisted, while the ship's band plays. After
breakfast, the marines are at their respective posts, under
arms, and the crew parades before the Captain and answers the
roll call. This is done twice a day, morning and evening,
throughout a voyage. The flag is lowered at four p. m., to the
accompaniment of the band. All the crew have to go to their
bunks upon a signal being fired at 8 o'clock. Before the door of
the Captain's cabin a marine is on guard day and night, and the
officers on duty have to report to the Captain anything of impor-
tance that may happen on board. The responsibility of the ship's
direction and navigation rests wholly on the Captain's shoulders.
The Commodore seems to be one degree higher in rank
than the Captain. His duties do not lie in the supervision of
individual ships, but in that of the fleet as a whole. Strict
discipline is maintained throughout the ship. It began to snow
this evening.

February 13th.

A bright sunny day. By seven in the morning the frigate

had weighed anchor and was steaming slowly, following the coast

of the Bay of Yeclo. Before us, beyond the clear expanse
of sea, stretch the shores of the bay, little fishing villages
lying scattered at the foot of the snow-capped hilts. Fishing
boats float leisurely here and there, and, as we pass, the fisher-
men gaze at us, amazement in their eyes, astonished to see
officials of their country on board a foreign warship. It is no
wonder that they are surprised, for the Japanese have hitherto
been forbidden by the law of Japan to leave their country.

At noon we rounded the eastern caps of the bay. In the
far distance we see majestic Fuji, raising his head in solemn
grandeur, as if to bid farewell to the first ambassadors that Japan
has ever sent abroad. No sooner had we found ourselves on the
bosom of the broad Pacific, than a heavy swell set in. We suf-
fered much discomfort from the rolling of the ship and some of
our party, overcome by seasickness, disappeared. I myself
became a victim and was compelled to go below.
February litli.

Many of our party are now victims of the " sea devil." Some
suffer more than others, while a certain number are unaffected by
the motion of the sea. The strong and healthy are very often
bad sailors, whereas delicate men are quite at their ease on board
ship. Physical strength has nothing to do with seasickness.
Suffering badly from the malady I lay down in my cabin all day.
One of my servants has come to tell me that the land is no
longer in sight ; nothing is to be seen but the sky and the moun-
tainous waves upon which the ship is constantly rising and falling.

February 16tli.

Since we left Yokoliama the wind has daily increased in
strength and the sea has become rougher, causing the ship to pitch

and roll to such a degree that our lives are made most miserable
The Commodore comes to see me every day to enquire after my
health, and every time he comes he advises me to go on dock
and get some fresh air ; that, he says, is the only way to cure
seasickness. An indescribable sensation has, however, overcome
me each time I have attempted to get up and has forced me back
to bed.

February ltli.

The Commodore has frequently sent me nice things to eat,
but, to my disappointment, my stomach refuses to retain them.
Towards evening the clouds gathered and became almost black,
and a terrific gale set in. The pitching and rolling of the ship
now became excessive ; the luggage which had been fastened
down on deck, got loose and cases dashed against each other,
and every now and then we could hear the crash of breaking
glass and porcelain. How can I possibly endure the discomforts
of this new home of mine ! Finding myself in danger of falling out
of bed, I had to cling with all my might to the bedpost. Every
one of the party had some bitter experience to relate, but worse
than any was the plight of those who were quartered on the
upper deck where the angry waves shattered the doors and forced
them to rush^below, as wet as fishes. When the storm was at
its height, the vessel tilted to an angle of 32 degrees, thus almost
reaching the point at which a ship must necessarily overbalance.
The huge waves that constantly sweep the deck carried away
one of the boats and further damage was done. The gallant way
in which the officers and crew, who remained on deck the whole
time, fought the storm, is indeed worthy of praise. It was a
great relief to all when, towards morning, the storm ceased. The

Commodore told us that at 35 degrees north latitude the sea is
usually rough during the winter months, but, he added, never in
all his twenty-eight years ' experience of the sea, had he ever
encountered such a tempest as that which we have just had. I
wonder who gave the fine name of " Pacific " to this ever-angry

February 22nd.

The sea is still rough and a strong wind has beeen against
us all day. This is the birthday of George Washington, the
first President and the Father of the United States. Owing to
the rough weather, however, the salute with which it is usual to
celebrate this national holiday was not fired.

February 241 li.

We have already been ten days at sea and are gradually be-
coming used to it and are feeling better. For the first time since
we left port, I went on deck, and after the closeness below, where
I had so long remained, I found the fresh air very enjoyable.
For some time I watched the huge rollers on which the ship was
tossed; then, it being too cold to stay on deck so long, I retired
to my own little cabin. This afternoon, rather to my surprise, I
found that the boiled rice served to me was brown in colour. On
my questioning one of the officers, I learned that the colour was
due to the presence in the tank water of rust, dislodged by the
constant motion of the ship. It is, however, quite harmless, if
unpleasant. This explanation reassured me aud I can now drink
the water and eat the food it is cooked in with a mind at ease.
Fresh water is of supreme importance on board ship. It is
kept below in several large tanks, and the quantity used is


strictly limited. Each person is allowed half a gallon a day,
and this has to suffice for cooking, washing and for use in the
cabin. I have not more than a jugful a day. Not a drop must
be wasted. The scarcity of water is one of the greatest of the
discomforts of life at sea, and it is one of which those who have
never been on a long sea voyage can scarcely form an idea. We
have now sailed half-way across the Pacific.

February 26th.

The sea is still rough. The head wind is increasing in
force. We are now running all the time by steam and, the supply
of coal becoming short, the Captain has decided to leave the
direct route to San Francisco and make use of the wind to run
to the Sandwich Islands for coal. Since morning the ship's
course has been due south.

IHarch 1st.

To-day I saw several flocks of birds. I never thought to
see birds in mid-ocean, thousands of miles from the nearest land.
Oh, my birds ! whence come you and whither go you ?

As, with a favourable wind (which, by the way, continued
as far as the Sandwich Islands), we make our way south, the
weather daily becomes warmer. All the members of our party
have now found their sea legs and have become more cheerful
and happy.

March 5th.

Awakened early this morming by the joyful cry of
" Land !" I hurried on deck. A dark line was visible in
the distance, like a streak of grey cloud under a sinking
moon. How overjoyed I was to see land again, after the mis -

erable life on the stormy sea three weeks of unendurable
monotony of sea and sky ! It was not very long before we
could see the islands, and, finally, after sailing aloag the coast, we
reached the harbour of Honolulu where, about noon, we anchored.

Honolulu is the capital of the Sandwich Islands and is si-
tuated on the eastern coast of the island of Hawai. Commodore-
Tattnall told us that the " Powhatan " would remain here for
about ten days to repair the damage done by the storm, and to
coal, and he suggested that we should go ashore and stay at an
hotel where he had already engaged accommodation for us, ad-
ding that, during our stay, the American Minister would look
after us.

This afternoon our party left the ship in several boats for
the shore, where we found a number of two-horse carriages await-
ing us. Captain Taylor and we two in the first carriage, led the
long procession. We drove through a large crowd of natives
eager to get a sight of the strange visitors to their kingdom.
The hotel, owned by a Frenchman, was reached in about a quarter
of an hour. It is a two-storied house with a wide balcony running
all round it. We each of us now have a large comfortable room.
As, standing on the balcony, I see luxuriant tropical plants and
flowers brightening the whole garden with their wonderful
colour and beauty, and feel the fresh soft spring breeze of the
early days of March, I am filled with great joy and happiness,
after the long weary days at sea.

31 arch 6tli.

Feeling fresh and well, I spent most of the morning on the
wide, comfortable verandah, in pleasant conversation with a few


members of the party. At 2 o'clock this afternoon, we drove
with Captain Taylor to the suburbs of the city. In the fields we
saw melons ripening thus early in the szason, and banana trees
with their huge clusters of fruit, while in the gardens there was a
profusion of glorious flowers of every colour, shade and shape.
We drove back to the hotel towards evening, admiring the beau-
tiful scenery on our way.

Warch 7tli.

At 2 p. m. we walked to the principal thoroughfare of the
city. Most of the houses in these streets are built of brick and
are two stories high; the merchants living in them are all either
European or American.

The natives are dark-skinned and they appear to be good
natured, but they do not strike me as being a very intelligent race.
They are all, men and women, scantily clothed, and are barefoot.
We visited a newspaper office, and were much interested in
watching the process of printing. The machine is a won-
derful one and works well. When a large wheel is turned
by a man, smaller wheels are set in motion. One part of the
machine supplies the ink, another receives the paper and passes
it on to the types. When finished, the papers are automatically
ejected. All this is done so quickly that several hundreds were
printed while we looked on. I returned to the hotel, weary with
walking, but with a keener sense of enjoyment than I had experi-
enced since I left home.

llarcli th.

In the afternoon we paid an official call on the Minister of
State of the Islands, at the Government House. The American

Minister, Commodore Tattnall and Captain Pearson accompanied
us. As we entered the gate we saw the guard of honour, which
lined both sides of the road leading to the main entrance of the
building. We were shown into a large reception room, where
we were received by the three principal Ministers of the King-
dom, and by several . other officials. We thanked them for the
kind attentions shown us by the Government since our arrival in
the Islands on our way to the United States of America. After
healths had been drunk in glasses of champagne, we drove back
by the same route to the hotel.

Captain Taylor tells us that an American whaler will shortly
leave the Islands for Hakodate, the most northerly port of Japan,
and he says that if we wish to send letters, she will take them
there for us. As I was once Governor of that port and as I still
have friends there, I have devoted most of the evening to writ-
ing to them, to my home and to my friends in Yedo.* This is
our first mail for home since we left, and I can well imagine how
greatly interested they will all be in reading our letters telling
them of our novel experiences on land and sea.
March 9th.

Captain Taylor told us this morning that the King of the
Hawaian Islands wished to meet us, but we replied that our mis-
sion was to the United States of America and that it was not
desirable that we should be presented to the sovereign of any
country before seeing the President of America. However, after
Captain Taylor had explained the forms and customs of inter-
national courtesy observed by all other countries, we decided to
do as he suggested and see the King.

* Now called Tokyo.


At 2 o'clock this afternoon we left the hotel, accompanied
by Captain Taylor, and again drove to the Government House.
Prince Kamehameha, the King's brother, arrived at the same
time as we did. He told us that royal carriages had been
provided for us, and that he had been sent by the King to escort
us to His Majesty's Palace. Shimmi, Captain Taylor, and
I were in the first carriage ; Oguri the " Ometsuke,"* our
Secretaries Morita, Naruse and Hidaka and the interpreters
Namura and Tateishi followed in other carriages. Escorted
by four cavalry officers, we drove through the streets. When
we reached the Palace Gate, the guard of honour lined up, and,
at the command of an officer, presented arms. As we left the
carriages at the foot of the flight of stairs leading to the Palace
entrance, the band struck up. We were received by a Minister
cf State. The American Minister, Commodore Tattnall and
Captain Pearson were already there. We were ushered into a
large room, where several Ministers were awaiting us. After a
short interval Shimmi, arm in arm with Mr. Borden, the American
Minister, I with Commodore Tattnall and Oguri with Captain
Pearson, entered the Audience Hall and were presented to the

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Online LibraryAmerica-Japan SocietyThe first Japanese embassy to the United States of America, sent to Washington in 1860 as the first of the series of embassies specially sent abroad by the Tokugawa shogunate → online text (page 1 of 22)